10 Reasons Why Your Teen is Stressed Out About Their Future

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 10 Reasons Why Your Teen is Stressed Out About Their Future

Written by: Marybeth Bock

Is it just me or are there a whole lot of things to worry about these days? There’s so much unrest in the world right now, it’s easy to feel anxious (and maybe even downright fearful) about the future. And, sadly, our teens are feeling it all, too.

When we were kids, we didn’t have nearly the worries our kids have today. We worried about silly stuff like whether we’d get asked to the dance or how much trouble we’d get in if we got caught sneaking in past curfew – certainly not about heavy issues like gun violence in our schools, the exorbitant cost of college, and finding a well-paying job after graduation.

The fact is, our kids are growing up in a very different world.

One of the absolute “givens” of parenting teenagers today is that so often we worry about how stressed out our kids are. And, the truth is, teens today have plenty to worry about…

Here are 10 big reasons why your teen is stressed out about their future and how you can help alleviate (at least some of) their stress.

10 Reasons Why Your Teen is Stressed Out About Their Future


1. College

It’s a known fact that teens are stressed out about getting into a “good” college and maintaining their grades once they’re there, but they’re even more stressed about how they’re going to pay for it. With the average U.S. public university student borrowing $31,410 to earn a bachelor’s degree, the thought of having to pay off large debt post-graduation is a scary thought, especially considering, according to research, 54% of teens feel unprepared to finance their futures.

Research also shows that 69% of teens said the high cost of college has affected their plans for education after high school. And, of the teens who plan to attend college, 28% said they’d only attend in-state college to keep costs down and 20% said they plan to live at home or commute. 

2. The Pressure to Have it “All Figured Out”

The pressure to choose which college to attend. The pressure to choose an alternate path should they choose not to attend college. The pressure to choose a major right out of high school. The pressure to be certain which path is right for them. It’s exhausting, stressful, and completely overwhelming for teens to feel as though they have to have it all figured out now. Whether the pressure is real or perceived, they’re feeling it big time.

3. Financial Security

Your teen doesn’t have to understand the complexities of inflation, the stock market, or skyrocketing real estate prices to understand that things cost a lot these days. They hear us complain about the cost of groceries, gas, and even the cost of their expensive hoodies and athletic shoes. It’s no wonder they’re worried about making a future living, whether Social Security will be around when it’s their turn to retire, or how they’ll ever be able to afford a car or a home. 

4. Day-To-Day Adulting

The reality is, many teens aren’t prepared to take on the challenge of full-on adulting. They’re intimidated about making it on their own, navigating the challenges of living solo, and leaving the comfort of the protective nest.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of Your Turn: How to be an Adult, says teens’ concerns are completely valid considering factors like student loan debt, rising housing costs, and low wages. The harsh reality is, a lot of teens today aren’t viewing their futures with hope and excitement, they’re approaching them with apprehension and uncertainty. 

5. Getting a Good Job

Teens today have witnessed their parents lose jobs, they’ve felt the perils of an unsteady economy, and they’ve seen qualified college grads struggle to find a well-paying job and it’s enough to stress them out. 

Not only is getting a decent job in the future on their minds, but landing a job that will afford them the lifestyle they hope for is also worrisome.

6. Mental Health Issues

It’s not an exaggeration to say that our teens’ mental health is in crisis. In the decade before the Covid pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness (as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors) increased nearly 40% among young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sadly, things have gotten even worse since the pandemic. With so many teens dealing with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm, it’s no wonder they feel the weight of uncertainty about their future.

7. Gun Violence

Our teens have grown up amidst a surge in gun violence. In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death among kids ages 19 and below. And it’s not just the physical harm from guns that affect teenagers. Just seeing notifications on their phones, listening to news reports about school shootings and participating in active shooter drills at school can increase teens’ anxiety levels. It’s not surprising that the majority of U.S. teens fear a shooting could happen at their own school. 

8. Harassment and Sexual Violence

Alarming new data from the CDC shows that nearly 20% of female high school students were a victim of sexual violence within the past year and 14% had been physically forced to have sex.

Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, said that an increase in sexual violence toward girls has certainly contributed to the alarming spike in their depressive symptoms. “If you think about every 10 teen girls you know, at least one and possibly more has been raped, and that is the highest level we’ve ever seen,” she said.

9. Climate Change

Record-breaking temperatures, severe storms, and catastrophic floods are the cause of mass devastation around the world. Signs of the changing climate have become impossible to ignore which is triggering teens to experience what experts are calling, “climate anxiety.”

A 2022 Education Week Research Center survey found that “37% of teenagers feel anxious about climate change and its effects, and more than a third feel afraid.” What’s particularly eye-opening is that a global study of 10,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 found that 39% are hesitant to have their own children one day because of the climate crisis.

10. Political & World Issues

More than half of teens and young Americans feel democracy in the country is under threat, and over a third think they may see a second U.S. civil war within their lifetimes, according to the 42nd Harvard Youth Poll. This along with the war in Europe, the fear of conflict spreading and the possibility of nuclear weapons being used is enough to put any teen’s stress into overdrive. 

You may think your teen is merely watching silly TikTok videos or scrolling through Instagram when they’re on their phone, but news and commentary about current events are everywhere and teens are far more tuned in to global news and events than ever before. 

What Can We Do to Help Our Teens Deal with Stress and Worry?

Here are the best ways to help teens who may be struggling with excessive worry and stress.

1. Be There for Them

Pediatric psychologist Ethan Benore, Ph.D., reminds parents, “Don’t underestimate the power of your presence. Research shows that the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is having at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive caregiver or adult.”

2. Validate Their Feelings

When your teen is stressed out about their future, it can be easy to dismiss their fears or sound judgmental if we think they’re being too dramatic. Normalize talking openly about their worry, concerns, and fears and how natural it is to feel those emotions at times. 

3. Encourage Them to Compartmentalize Their Worry or Stress

Encourage your teen to put their stress and worry into two buckets: Things they can control and things they can’t. Then, have them focus solely on areas of stress that can be positively impacted by their action. If they’re worried about getting into a good college, they can talk to admissions officers or their high school counselor to map out what they need to do to be competitive. If adulting is stressing them out, it’s all about taking baby steps. Encourage them to start taking ownership of their health or writing goals for their future. 

4. Take Action

On some of the bigger issues, like politics, climate change, or gun violence, your teen can educate themselves about the issues, join clubs or organizations that aim to improve the situation and be an active role model and voice. And, no… they’re certainly not too young to make a difference. 

5. Seek Help If Needed

Everyone needs a little help from time to time. If your teen is stressing out over issues and it’s impacting their well-being, it may be time to reach out to the family doctor for advice or seek out a therapist so your teen can vent and voice their concerns and stress. It always helps mitigate stress when you have someone to talk to openly and honestly.

6. Be a Mental Health Role Model

You may not be aware of how your own actions can affect your teen — but they see and internalize it all. They’re watching how you manage your own worry and stress and learning healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) coping mechanisms from you. Be sure your teen sees you regularly engage in healthy behaviors like exercising, eating well, prioritizing positive, social relationships, limiting negative news, and finding joy and hope in our world.

There are actually plenty of legitimate reasons why your teen is stressed out about their future.

Teens today are aware, savvy, and connected to the world so it’s understandable. But don’t let your teen suffer in silence. Be their sounding board, help them find healthy coping mechanisms, and reach out for help if needed. 

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “10 Reasons Why Your Teen is Stressed Out About Their Future,” you might enjoy reading these posts, too!

12 Things Today’s Teens Worry About and How to Help

Healthy Coping Skills for Teenagers: 10 Ways to Relieve Stress & Anxiety

20 Most Stressful Things About Parenting a Teenager

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1 comment

Thom Bogue August 23, 2023 - 11:44 am

I was talking politics with one of my older son’s and my 17 year old granddaughter stated “Do you know what my generation is worried about?”, “Being homeless, that’s what we and others my age worry about”. It got me thinking about it, what does their future look like?
We as adults who created this mess really need to address our decisions and currently only we can make the difference now.


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